Mitch returns home with horrifying consequences
Mitch stepped off the bus, guitar strapped to his back, and took a deep breath. Even though the air smelled a little staler than he remembered, it was good to be home. He looked around him at the town where he grew up. It had been five years since he'd left for Nashville to pursue his dream of being a country music star.
That hadn't panned out, so after years of bartending and playing late night gigs in whiskey stained ginmills here he was, a failure. It was time to call it quits and reconnect with his family.
Next to the bus stop was Miller's Five and Dime, a store he used to frequent with his mother when he was a kid. He poked his head inside, surprised it was still open and went in to get himself a can of soda. He walked up to the counter and saw Stan Miller, the proprietor, still there after all these years. He looked the same, too, as if he hadn't aged a day.
"Hi, Mr. Miller!" Mitch exclaimed, happy to see an old and familiar face.
"Is that you, Mitch Collins? I'll be damned!" Stan exclaimed, beaming, "I'm surprised I haven't heard any of your records on the radio!"
"They weren't feelin' what I was puttin' out, I guess," Mitch responded and shook the hand that was extended to him, "How're my parents? I'm heading over to see them now."
"Well, my boy, they're fine but I'm afraid you won't find them at home," Stan replied, "but I'm going to be closing up here soon and I'll take you over to where they're at. They'll be thrilled to see you. Have a seat."
He pointed to a stool next to the counter, and Mitch sat on it.
Stan checked his watch, "It's almost time, Mitchy. It won't be long."
"Almost time until you close?" Mitch asked.
"Almost time," Stan responded.
My parents keep late hours these days, Mitch thought, it's almost midnight.
Stan reached below the counter and grabbed his keys. He looked over at Mitch and said, "It's time to close up. Whyn't you come with me and I'll show you to 'em."
"Sure," Mitch responded and stood up.
Stan ushered him back out the front door before shutting off the lights. He locked the door behind them and headed off down the street.
"This way, son," he motioned, and Mitch followed.
After a couple of blocks Stan stopped in front of an old church. "St. Josephs Roman Catholic Church," proclaimed the weathered sign in front. He pointed to the wooden doors at the top of the steps and told Mitch to head on in. Mitch did as instructed, although he felt a little weird about why his parents would be in church at this hour.
At the top of the steps, he opened the doors to the church and went inside. Stan followed close behind. The sanctum was lit by what looked to be hundreds of candles. Soft music played through the speakers in the front and the priest, or who Mitch assumed to be the priest, was standing still on the altar wearing a hooded black robe.
Mitch stepped forward and the entire congregation turned to face him. The priest removed his hood, revealing the face of an old man. He smiled.
"I see we have a guest this evening," the priest said.
Stan walked forward and stood next to Mitch, who was bewildered as to what was going on. This didn't look like any church service he'd ever been to and he'd been raised Catholic. He looked at the sea of faces and recognized a few, but didn't see his parents.
"This is Mitch Collins, back with us after all these years," Stan said, loudly, "He's back to see his mommy and daddy."
"Welcome, Mitch," The smiling priest responded and motioned for them to come forward. Mitch hesitated, but moved forward not without trepidation. What was going on here? Where are my parents?
The eyes of the congregants stayed on them as they walked forward, finally reaching the altar. The priest stepped forward and took Mitch's hand.
"Welcome home," he said as he guided him up next to him at the podium.
Stan walked away and took a seat in the pew in front. Mitch looked out over the crowd to see if he could see his parents.
"Mom? Dad?" he called out. Silence.
The priest spoke again.
"Things have changed since you left, Mitch. Many things. Two years ago we received some visitors to our little town. I'd like you to meet them."
He picked up a bell and rang it three times. Noises came from each side of the altar. Growling shuffling, moaning. Mitch looked and saw a group of the most grotesque humanoids he'd ever seen. Their faces twisted up and bloody, bone showing through the shredded flesh of their faces. They were coming closer, toward the altar. The priest stepped back.
"They took your parents pretty quickly into their ranks, Mitch. They took a lot of us. But we found that if we give them what they want, once a month, they leave the town alone. Usually we give them a visitor, a stranger, but today we were most fortunate to have you to reunite with your family. You came home at the most opportune of times, Mitch!"
Mitch looked at the creatures in horror. He saw what he thought might be the faces of his parents, but he couldn't be sure because they were disfigured beyond recognition. They closed in upon him. He screamed and tried to run, but was overwhelmed. He felt their teeth sink into his skin as he was pushed down to the floor. Pain, blood, blackness.
Mitch's lifeless body was dragged by the creatures back to whence they came. The congregation stood and filed out as silently as they had been sitting.